Green’s Dictionary of Slang

college n.

[ironic uses of SE, the overall ref. is to prison as a ‘university of crime’; note mid-17C Oxbridge use college, a public house or tavern with a sign of a green garland or painted hoop; WWI Aus. milit. college, 39 General Hospital and No. 2 Stationery Hospital, primarily treating VD]

1. [early 17C] a brothel.

2. [early 17C–early 19C] (UK Und.) Newgate prison.

3. [18C+] (UK Und.) any prison; also attrib.; thus [early 18C–mid-19C] go to college, to go to prison.

4. [late 18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) King’s (or Queen’s) Bench or Fleet prison; also attrib.

5. [mid-19C+] (US Und.) a state prison, a penitentiary.

6. [mid-19C–1900s] (UK Und.) the workhouse.

7. (US Und.) reform school.

In compounds

college boy (n.)

[1960s] (US prison) an inmate.

college cove (n.) [cove n. (1)]

[early 19C] (UK Und.) the turnkey of Newgate prison.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

college try (n.) (also college effort) [the myth of ‘college spirit’]

[1910s+] (US) a plucky effort, esp. against heavy odds; usu. in phr. (let’s) give it the old college try.

college widow (n.) [? coined by the US satirist George Ade]

[late 19C–1940s] (US) an unmarried woman, in some way associated with a given college, whose advancing age does not deter her from associating with successive generations of students.

In phrases